April 28, 2016

As we begin our days, whether at 7 a.m. or 7 p.m. in the medical center, at the West Campus or across the community, we arrive with the potential to impact the lives of thousands of children and women in our care.

Because we engage with so many families each day, we can sometimes take for granted how our daily interactions impact our patients’ and families’ lives. How we work and how we engage with our families today may affect a memory that lasts a lifetime.

Employees like Donald Wilkins take that notion to heart. Donald works with families in Ambulatory Surgery to keep them updated about their children’s status during surgery. For anxious parents awaiting a child’s status and needing a bit of reassurance, Donald is one of the most important people they’ll interact with at Texas Children’s. Even more important is Donald’s role in making sure the patient feels comfortable and confident about the procedure they’re about to undergo. On a recent “Caught You Caring” card, one patient wrote:

“Throughout my stay, one person has shined like a bright star in my eyes. I met him in the surgery waiting room – his name is Donald. He is an amazing person and has a one-of-a-kind personality. He made me very comfortable and made me feel safe pre-surgery. He checked on me often and made sure I felt ok. He came to visit me today and made me very happy. People like him make me want to go into the medical field and help children with chronic illnesses like me feel better. Thank you for all you do Donald. God bless you.”

This week, as we celebrate Patient Experience Week with hospitals nationwide, it’s important to remember that each of us has the potential to make a similar impact every day. And it’s important. Research even shows that when a family has a great experience, they listen more intently to their medical instructions and follow doctors’ orders more thoroughly. They’re readmitted to the hospital less often and have fewer return visits with the doctor when they feel comfortable enough to ask the right questions the first time around. It makes sense: how we make our families feel is an essential part of caregiving.

That’s why ensuring positive patient experiences isn’t something that’s just nice to do – it’s our priority at Texas Children’s, and really, it’s our promise to our families. Our patients know they can count on us for the best medical care. We want them to expect and receive an exceptional experience at Texas Children’s as well.

To this end, we are making concerted efforts to elevate the patient experience throughout our system. For instance, our leaders and their teams are conducting “intentional rounding” at the hospitals. In the Emergency Center, we changed our notification system to help families understand our process and the reason behind wait times. And in our clinics and practices, we armed employees with tips and ideas for creating positive memories with patients every day.

These are just some of the ways we are demonstrating our dedication to exceptional patient experiences for every patient and every family who comes to any part of Texas Children’s. We will continue to ask our patients about their experiences and listen for ways to improve.

So as you arrive tomorrow morning or evening, at one of our hospitals, clinics, practices or any Texas Children’s location, think about the potential in you to create an even better experience for everyone you encounter that day. Even if your role doesn’t involve direct patient care, you have the ability to encourage or support colleagues. That promotes team work and strengthens our sense of culture, and that absolutely impacts patient experience down the line.

It all matters to every single family we touch. So arrive each day, ready and excited for the wonderful opportunity you might have at any moment to make a difference.

April 22, 2016

Earlier this week, images of our city under water became national news. We saw abandoned cars and homes partially submerged in murky water. And newscasts shared the faces and stories of families who’d lost all but each other. Seeing these images was difficult, and hearing the stories of the losses suffered was heart wrenching.

In the midst of such devastation, the stories that also capture our collective attention are those of the people reaching out to help. As quickly as they could, people came to the rescue of neighbors and many went to areas of need to give aid and supplies. It reminds us that people’s hearts are intact and that there is much for which to be thankful. But I don’t need to look very far to be reminded of that because time and again, you demonstrate such incredible dedication to caring for our patients, especially in times of difficulty.

Early Monday, we began one-to-one hand-offs, essentially allowing a nurse to end the shift once another nurse arrived for relief. Many physicians, nurses and other staff, even after relieved, chose to remain at the hospital in sleeping rooms to rest and ensure they could provide relief for the next shift. As the leadership team met throughout the day to assess the situation across the organization, at one point, staffing was described as “adequate to abundant.” In the midst of a historic storm, our staff was here … unwavering, at the ready.

I must also acknowledge how incredible our leadership team was. They were in constant motion, assessing, responding, planning and pitching in right beside their staff and employees to ensure uninterrupted patient care and seamless operations. Sara Howell at the West Campus was one of many who sent me a note earlier this week to comment on leaders’ efforts. She said:

I was very impressed with the administration team at West Campus during the flooding. Chanda came into the EC with her running shoes on, literally. She was so eager to make sure we were functioning. When it was expressed that garbage needed to be pulled, instead of delegating this tedious task, Chanda and another admin team member put on the blue gloves and cleared out trash from patient rooms and the core area. During a time when so much was happening operationally, it was extremely impressive to have leadership make sure we were functioning at ALL levels.

I agree Sara. It was remarkable – not in the sense that it surprised me. But rather, it simply touched me so very deeply to see how selfless and committed everyone here is to our patients, their families and to our Texas Children’s family.

By the same token, I know that many of you couldn’t be here. Your heart was here, but I know you were impacted by this storm like so many others throughout our community. And evacuating, sheltering in place or taking care of your loved ones was what you most needed to do. Please know you all were in my prayers, whether you were here, taking care of our families or at home tending to yours. Also, if you were impacted by the storm, know that we are here to help. We have resources in place to provide some of the support you may need at this time.

I understand that it’s not always easy to respond to others’ needs in the midst of uncertainty. Yet, you do it without pause. That commitment and willingness to serve others is what brings us together. You’ve heard me say that it’s our calling to be here, to give of ourselves, to use our skills and talents to care for others, especially when no one else can. Thank you all for answering that call, rain or shine.

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April 4, 2016

It’s difficult to get through a day without seeing or hearing a headline that reminds you of today’s uncertain financial landscape. People are worried about saving for retirement and paying for their kids’ education. We hear about layoffs. And when we see the low gas prices, we’re reminded there’s a shortfall at the company where your neighbor, your church member or your spouse works.

Many of us can’t help but carry the burden of financial concerns these days. We all remember the recession of 2008, but even then, Houston was comparatively unscathed and among the quickest-to-rebound cities. But this time feels different, because it is different.

Now, because the oil and gas industry is primarily impacted, Houston is feeling the brunt of it. And subsequently your friends and family in the oil industry have been or may be impacted. And to some degree, we feel residual effects at Texas Children’s because the families of our patients are impacted.

I understand that many of you carry these concerns with you into work, and then you hear that we, too, are “managing to the margin” – or more pointedly, tightening our belts. You worry about that, and I understand. But I’ve got three things I want you to think about. Three things that are shaping a really promising future for all of us here at Texas Children’s.

First, we are proactively managing our margin right now in response to positive growth. That’s a really good thing. Have you been out to The Woodlands lately? Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands is looking amazing, and it is months from opening its outpatient services. We will spend $360 million to build this 550,000-square-foot facility, which will ultimately house 32 acute care beds, 28 ICU/NICU beds, 25 Emergency Center patient rooms and offer services in 29 medical and surgical pediatric subspecialties.

And if you’ve been to the medical center campus recently, you’ve seen the cranes and the work we’ve begun on our 19-floor, 640,000-square-foot pediatric inpatient care tower. We will spend $575 million on this new tower, opening in 2018, and the renovation of our Emergency Center, to be completed in 2020.

The fact that we can invest in state-of-the-art facilities like these is a testament to our organization’s financial strength and is in response to ever increasing demand for our services. The more exceptional our care, the higher the demand for our services. We are responding to that demand by expanding our clinical programs, facilities and, most importantly, our workforce.

That’s the second thing I want you to think about – our people. To ensure we can fulfill our mission, deliver on the promise of providing the best possible care, we’ve got to have the right people in place. Our team has to be the right size, have the right skills and talents and be the right fit for the culture of our one amazing team here at Texas Children’s. So that means right now our recruitment efforts are very aggressive. Over the next three years, we will hire about 5,000 new people. Currently, we are hiring about 17 new people every single day. But we’re balancing our “growth spurt” with the challenges of an ever-changing health care market.

Which brings me to the third thing – our experience with managing growth spurts. You know, it’s not the first time we’ve grown rapidly. Since 1989, we’ve had four major expansions totaling more than $3 billion. And we’ve grown from about 1,400 employees to about 13,000 in that time. So growth is not unfamiliar to us – or as people like to say: “This is not our first rodeo.”

The leadership team we have in place has been here during volatile bear markets and favorable bull markets. We’ve experienced fluctuations in acuity and demanding patient volumes when we’re short staffed. We’ve endured weather events that closed the doors of other hospitals, and we’ve built expansive new facilities a time or two, or three, and we’ve had to recruit aggressively many times.

This has evolved and matured us as a leadership team and as an organization. Our experience has made us smarter and more agile. It’s why we proactively tweak our budget mid-fiscal-year, if necessary, and it’s why we can confidently continue large-scale capital projects.

Most importantly, it’s why I can assure you that we’re in a good place here at Texas Children’s. We make decisions with all of you in mind, and we are constantly balancing the needs of our patients with those of our people, because we know we cannot take care of one without ensuring the support of the other. So, I know the news you hear all around us isn’t always good, but know that we are moving boldly because we’ve been blessed such that we can, and we’ve prepared such that we know how.